NMI College Board Rejects No-Confidence Vote

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Faculty senate allegedly lacked quorum to conduct voting

By Tammy F. Doty

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 31, 2012) – In a 5-1 vote on Friday afternoon, Northern Marianas College’s (NMC) board of regents (BOR) rejected the faculty’s no-confidence vote against President Dr. Sharon Hart.

The lone "no" vote was cast by Regent Andrew Orsini.

The BOR’s special meeting — the second consecutive Friday session — convened to address the faculty’s Dec. 14 vote arising from their list of concerns with Hart’s leadership as this relates to the issue of shared governance, alleged misappropriation of government resources and alleged deception.

At the heart of the day-long meeting was the issue of whether the assembly vote on Dec. 14 met the threshold of a quorum that represented the majority of the faculty assembly.

Per the March 2012 faculty assembly constitution, Article IX, Section 1, "A quorum for any meeting of the Assembly, the Senate, or any committee, shall be a majority of the full members."

No quorum recognized

BOR Chairman Juan Lizama asked the senate faculty president, Amanda Angel-Diaz, and staff senate president, Marie Coleman, if they had had a quorum on the day of the no-confidence vote.

Angel-Diaz replied that they believed the faculty assembly did reach a quorum with 28 members attending out of a revised total count of 58 (the original total was 61) but the numbers soon came under fire.

NMC’s human resources/legal counsel Chris Timmons suggested the actual count stood around 73.

Lizama suggested the number used in the Dec. 17 faculty senate’s report to the BOR listed the number as 61 and should represent the baseline for the vote.

By using the 61 total, the faculty’s no-confidence vote missed the 51 percent quorum threshold by 3 people.

Using this logic, the BOR rejected the no-confidence vote as representative of the faculty assembly.

As a result, the faculty’s vote was tabled as "invalid" by the BOR and as Lizama noted, "Works in the President’s favor."

However, the BOR did commit to revisiting the decision if the faculty could provide — within 10 days — additional evidence that the assembly did indeed possess a quorum.

Faculty reaction to the board’s decision on the no confidence vote quorum issue was pragmatic during and after the meeting.

School of education instructor, college council vice chair and faculty representative Kyle Podziewski earlier in the meeting made their position clear.

"A faculty assembly took a vote on a non-binding resolution of no confidence in the president; the issue of a quorum doesn’t affect the vote’s outcome."

Next step

While the faculty lost the no-confidence issue their underlying concerns were the next topic of discussion among the board members.

Regent Frank Rabauliman suggested tabling the faculty’s concerns to allow Hart an opportunity to address the items directly with the staff for resolution.

However, Lizama countered by stating "These are major concerns…the board must look into them and take justifiable actions."

Hart encouraged the board at three different times to undertake the review as soon as possible because "I would hope the board would look at the evidence in a very expeditious manner because this institution needs to be able to move on."

Hart went on to emphasize her intention to address NMC’s staff about the items of concern on the first day of work on Jan. 10.

"I need to be able to address everyone on that day in relation to these various issues…I have to as I and the college have been out there for a number of weeks and they need to be resolved," Hart told the regents in another effort to encourage quick action.

The president went on to reiterate her disappointment in the situation.

"Many of these concerns could have been cleared up immediately…It’s a shame that has not happened."

Faculty contends that they did bring their concerns to Hart over an extended period of time only to receive the run-around.

Documents provided to Variety seem to support the assertion.

An email exchange on Nov. 9-10 between staff senate president Marie Coleman and Hart reveals a disconnect between NMC’s management team and the staff and faculty senates.

"I truly hope that you will be proactive in sitting down and providing me with a ‘heads-up’ on any issues that may be going on out there that I need to address," reads a Nov. 9 email from Hart to Coleman.

On Nov. 10 Coleman replied, citing a long list of attempts to keep Hart informed of staff feedback.

"I have been responsible and have made every effort to bring matters of concern in both written and oral reports to you and the management team.

"On certain critical matters, particularly with regard to accreditation and campus climate, I have met with you personally," states Coleman.

NMC’s faculty senate echoed the attempts to reach out to Hart and assert Hart’s claim of "not knowing" is insincere and misleading.

Regardless of what triggered the rift between Hart and NMC’s employees, the BOR is taking the situation seriously.

Bottom-line

After nearly an hour of discussion, the regents agreed to immediately review the faculty’s written concerns regarding Hart and her subsequent response to those concerns.

To that end, the BOR will meet on both Jan. 3 and 4 to plow through the thick packets of material related to the faculty’s items-of-concern substantiation and Hart’s rebuttal and intends to call another special meeting immediately thereafter to announce a decision.

Both the regents and Hart seek an expedited resolution before Lizama and Hart leave for a Jan. 9-11 meeting of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

In the interim, vice chair Elaine Orilla made a point of going on record about retaliation for the benefit of the faculty and Hart.

"Let’s make sure there is none of that in our college community against those that have brought items of concern to the board…and I know the president is hearing us."

Lizama summed things up by saying, "One thing is clear from this afternoon, there are faculty concerns and those concerns have to be dealt with."

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